Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why am I not surprised?

From Christianity Today:

Sunday used to be a day reserved by many Christians for attending worship services, but new research indicates the extent to which American churches today are competing against myriad other activities.
The biggest competition? Children's sports.

According to a new study published in the Review of Religious Research, an examination of declining attendance at 16 congregations revealed that many pastors place the most blame on children's sports activities, since both practices and competitions are increasingly "scheduled on Sunday mornings at the very time when many churches traditionally have provided religious education."

But that doesn't mean that families whose kids are highly involved in athletics will stop attending church (though that does seem to be the case among churches that stigmatize parents who miss church for sports, as the Association of Religion Data Archives's David Briggs points out).

Instead, more Protestant churches are offering alternate service times to accommodate members with Sunday morning commitments. They're also increasing their emphasis on physical fitness programs or sports ministries.

According to Briggs (whose ARDA research roundup is worth reading), "More than two-thirds of congregations who said sports and fitness programs were a specialty of the congregation reported more than a 10 percent growth in attendance from 2000 to 2010. In contrast, only a third of churches with no athletic programs reported such growth."

CT previously has reported on the topic of sports and how Christians have 'succumbed to the sports culture.'

My Comments:

I am not surprised.  Twenty years ago when I first came to this parish in the South, Wednesday was a sacred day -- a church day -- on which no sports practices or school events were scheduled.  That has long ago gone by the wayside and now some churches have scheduled their own sports leagues and practices on Wednesday evenings.

Two things here... do we gain anything at all by succumbing to the craze and over scheduling our kids in the name of religion and faith... and do we really believe that keeping our mouths shut in pointing out the contradiction between faith and our own scheduled events that conflict with church attendance makes no difference down the road?

So call me old fashioned, out of touch, or just plain cantankerous, but I think it is high time that we attach some real priorities to things, that parents stop over scheduling events for their children, and that we stop doing the same thing as the world but in the name of religion and faith...  


Anonymous said...

I am with you, Pastor. Every Sunday morning on my way to church I pass several runners and walkers. The YMCA is filled to overflowing. Unfortunately, our culture today places the emphasis on me and not on HE.
(If I ever get brave enough, I'm going to stop and ask a jogger if he (she) would like to go to church with me. It will probably get me arrested!

Anonymous said...

This has been an issue for what seems like for ever. My take on the matter is that there will always be something vying for the believer's attention that is not God or the things of God. What a powerful witness opportunity to say no to the things of the world for the things of God, even when those other things are not bad in and of themselves (attendance at Ascension Thursday Mass versus attending a softball game comes to mind as but one example). While the Church must continue to witness to cross-bearing and Christ-centered choice-making and priority-setting as hallmarks of faithful discipleship (and the costs associated with the same) I believe she must also do better in acknowledging and affirming the faithful few who are already doing this (versus a constant railing against those who aren't). Is this not why we look to the Saints as wonderful witness, that seeing the grace they received in their own renunciation of the world, we might be strengthened in our own faith? Indeed!

Janis Williams said...

A bazillion years ago, when I was enamored of joining ball clubs, campfire girls, etc. my parents simply said, "No."

Where has that word gone?

Anonymous said...

Now the parents are enamored with scheduling up ever waking minute of their child's life...even when the child says no.